Putrajaya, Malaysia: India said on Friday it wanted the decade-long Doha round of global trade talks to be concluded this year, but said negotiators needed to work fast.
Commerce minister Anand Sharma, speaking to Reuters after signing a free trade agreement with Malaysia to help double bilateral trade to $15 billion by 2015, said major trading powers were “cautiously optimistic” a deal could be reached.
“We were of the shared assessment that 2011 provides a window of opportunity so every effort must be made to seize it,” he said. “But two months are already gone. So we must move fast.”
The US Envoy to the World Trade Organization said on Thursday the long-running talks had started to move after a week of constructive negotiations among 11 key countries.
India’s pact with Malaysia, which follows India’s signing of a similar agreement with Japan two days earlier, covers trade in goods and services, investment and economic cooperation.
“This will usher in a new era of much deeper economic integration,” said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement will also subject more products to tariff concessions, over and above an existing ASEAN-India trade agreement for goods.
ASEAN is the Association of South East Asian Nation, which comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.
“This is a major step both the countries have taken towards building a partnership for the future, which will have a defining influence in this region and help towards the larger economic integration of Asia,” Sharma said.
Malaysia is India’s 19th largest trade partner, while India is Malaysia’s 13th largest trading partner, with total trade valued at almost $9 billion in 2011.
India is also due to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union this year.